Broadcast Media Shaped Evangelicals | Drescher

I don't much follow mainline denominational voices, so I hadn't heard of Elizabeth Drescher, but my friend Paul Koptak pointed this article out to me.  Her "digital ecclesiology," from this interview seems to have loads of spot-on points. (1 of 2)

The evangelical traditions came up at a time when newspapers, radio and television were developing in America. They were born out of that environment, and so their polity and their spirituality is focused on a charismatic leader with a compelling message that is sent out to the faithful. ...

What’s interesting is that broadcast media does tend to replace face-to-face media. We see repeatedly this phenomenon of “believing without belonging,” with people who “go to church” sitting in their living room but never connect their faith in a face-to-face community.

Social media tends not to do that. Evangelicals tend to use social media as though it is a broadcast media. But others are starting to understand what it means for being networked, relational and incarnational.

Many of us who critique evangelicals from just inside the fence lament that Drescher is right that the evangelical gospel has too often been defined as a broadcast message.  More, it may be grandiose but plausible to say that the communications technology history, not just the theology, helped shape that.

Now, Drescher seems to claim that Mainliners are the natural heirs of social media's truth-in-context, and if so the claim may be a bit anachronistic ((Isn't the golden age of newspapers, let's say the 1920s, a whole lot earlier than the 1950s neo-evangelicals she's talking about here? And the "mainliners" of the time were similarly influenced by the individualistic and modernistic utopia mass media promised...)) as well as not quite realized:  I'm not sure I've seen today's surges of United Methodist grassroots engagement.

Is anyone doing it? Well, some evangelicals are figuring out that social media is more than simply a "channel" for a message.  And the post-evangelicals are too:  that's where I'd probably place the my friends in the anabaptist missional-incarnational crowd. I mean, this might as well be overheard at a hipster theology bar:

Preaching is built for face-to-face engagement, so sermons generally are not appropriate for social media. A sermon assumes a relationship in community. If you’re a good preacher, you’re speaking to a particular church at a particular time, so sermons shouldn’t be easily translatable across communities.